How Your Circadian Rhythm Impacts Your Skin, According to Experts

October 04, 2022
Caitlyn Martyn
By: Caitlyn Martyn | by L'Oréal
person posing with hand on face

It’s safe to say that we all desire to get the most out of our skincare routines and achieve a smooth, more youthful-looking, glowing complexion. One way to optimize your visible appearance is by looking to your circadian rhythm. In a 2014 study conducted by Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist and consultant, found that your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, can affect the look of your skin and how it repairs itself at different hours of the day. To learn more, we chatted with Dr. Zeichner and consulted with Dr. Whitney Roban, a sleep specialist. 

What Is Circadian Rhythm?

According to Dr. Whitney Roban, the circadian rhythm is the body’s internal 24-hour biological clock that regulates everything from sleep and wake cycle to body temperature, metabolism and even skin repair. Each cell in the body, including those that make up your skin, has a natural circadian rhythm that is impacted by light exposure (which is why you’ve probably heard you should stay off of your electronic devices right before bed). “Your skin is naturally programmed to undergo specific activities in the morning and others in the evening,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Understanding your circadian rhythm can help you choose products to use during your morning and evening skincare routines to coincide with your daily circadian activities.”

How Does Circadian Rhythm Affect the Skin?

“Our skin has its own circadian rhythm, with various dermatologic processes happening at different times of the day,” Dr. Roban says. “During the day, we must help to protect our skin from UV light [by applying products with SPF and taking other sun protection measures], but at night, it’s important to optimize our time asleep in order to support skin renewal and regeneration.” 

Think of the morning as a time for protection and prevention. “Since we are exposed to environmental aggressors like UV light during the day, I always recommend sunscreen and antioxidants as part of your morning routine,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps the skin defend from free radical damage. It can be layered under sunscreen.” We love the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Vitamin C Serum.  


“The evening is a time for hydration while skin repairs, so look for moisturizing night creams to compensate for the skin's natural loss of hydration,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Products formulated with ingredients like retinol, hydroxy-acids and peptides are best used before bed since they encourage processes like surface cell turnover that are naturally occurring at night.” 

The CeraVe Retinol Resurfacing Serum, formulated with both retinol and ceramides, helps deliver smoother, more refined-looking skin come morning. Just remember that these ingredients can increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and applying a broad spectrum sunscreen each morning is a must.




Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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